Archive for the ‘Indian potlics/Media’ Category

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Competence in election depends on competent criteria in selection

April 10, 2014

This write up is inspired by Mr Gurucharan Das’s article on the current Indian elections, “Secularism or Growth-choice is yours” in the Sunday times of April 6, 2014 where he says “ “where he suggests how economic growth is crucial to the lives of the youth who represent demographic dividend. The last line states “ There will always be a trade off in values at the ballot box and those who place secularism above demographic dividend are wrong and elitist”.

Former Union Minister and Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani had written in his book “Imagining India” how demographic dividend could make or break India. This is only possible through good governance which obviously implies a sincere, competent and experienced prime minister which in turn reminds one of Mr lal Bahadur Shastri . One should learn from history how he came about being prime minister on sheer merit unlike today’s dynastry politics. . Apart from performing very well in several party posts on different occasions , he was also a capable minister in many spheres- He performed with distinction as Railways minister, Transport and communications minister , Commerce minister and even union Home Minister. In the book “The Prime Ministers of India” compiled by Dr R.K.Pruthi, it is mentioned,” In 1964, Pandit Nehru fell ill while attending the annual sessions of the congress. It was decided to strengthen the union cabinet to relieve the prime minister of some of his routine work. Persuaded to return to the cabinet, Mr Shastri became Minister without portfolio whose task was to perform such functions as may be assigned to him by the prime minster from time to time in relation to the ministry of external affairs, atomic energy and Cabinet secretariat.” It is further mentioned that though Nehru did not name a successor, he had been grooming Lal Bahadur to step into his shoes. He had been entrusting to him the most pressing problems of the country and he had tackled them well. This has proved his ability to the masses and when the time came, he was unanimously elected the new leader. Perhaps Mr Rahul Gandhi could have tried something similar under Professor Manmohan singh for getting valuable governance experience. Mr Nehru has spoken extremely highly of Mr Shastri’s competence.

Mr Shastri had governance experience even before Independence- Mr Shastri was elected to the UP assembly in 1937. In 1945, he became secretary to the state government parliamentary board. Re-elected in 1946, he was appointed parliamentary secretary to the chief minister. The following year, he became minister for police and transport. There is mention of exceptional service under state chief ministers as well. It may not be out of place to mention here that he went to Jail for a total period of nine years during independence.

In contrast today’s candidates seem to be found wanting . Though Mr Modi has become chief minister of Gujarat several times, he has no experience of central government. Though not officially announced, one gets to hear Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal’s names is possible PM candidates. Neither has any governance experience to speak of. Mr Kejriwal won the Delhi elections, made a lot of announcements and quit for dubious reasons. Those announcements were touted as achievements which no government had achieved in 49 days. This is like trying to compare cricketer Vijay Merchant’s test batting average of 47.72 to Saurav Ganguly’s 42.17 forgetting the fact that while Mr Merchant had played only 10 tests , Ganguly played 113. This comparison can be misleading as Mr Kejriwal does not have any performance to speak of actually. Well known management writer Ram charan in his book “Execution” states how the best of students of ivy league colleges are found wanting in execution skills though they have excellent articulation skills. Venture capitalists say “ We fund teams(execution), not ideas”. Mr Kejriwal maybe a well meaning man but taking execution for granted and making accusations without proof make his seem naive.Even internationally, there is seems to be quite a gulf between President Obama’s oratorical and execution skills..Mr Kejriwal’s pet issue corruption is a major issue but a less corrupt politician who is not capable enough is equally undesirable.

As for Mr Gandhi, him and the congress party should have a look at what his great grandfather stated on electing his successor “Do democratic leaders choose their own crown princes? Are we Roman Emperors? I know that the ordinary process of democratic politics will pick my successor. Four hundred million people are capable of selecting a leader for themselves. I am not going to do it for them. It would be insolent for me to do it. “ On paper, the congress party may profess to do this but there is clearly a predominance of the Gandhi family. According to media reports, Mr Gandhi has made sincere efforts to induct professionals from other streams. From my experience, professionals only accept somebody who has superior capability as their leader or maybe that does not apply to politics where the stakes are much higher than the corporate world. Apart from shastri all the other prime ministers from the non Gandhi family had plenty of governance and administrative experience and performed better as well. Though we all want competent politicians, the mainstream media rarely highlight this fact. How somebody like Jagan Mohan Reddy can straightaway aspire to be chief minister of a large state like Andhra Pradesh also defies logic. It reminds me of my college days thirty years ago when, being an impressionable teenager, I used to think that the short cut to success was a rich father. I would go around saying

Whether your father makes profit or loss,

When you join him in business, you become automatic boss.

When your father is in business, you can be sure of one thing.

Whoever may come and go, you will be the king

Whether it is restaurant, factory or shop

The principle is the same, replace the pop at the top

Practical life proved to be totally different. I worked in one company where there were four candidates from the same management institute- one person got three double promotions over a year but the others got only one promotion which was obviously because of difference in execution skills though everybody had the same degree.

I never thought that my short poem would apply to politics one day which has become a business, a thought well articulated by former cabinet secretary, TSR Subramanian in his book,” Governmint in India”. In an earlier article, Mr Das had stated that there is nothing wrong if a son or daughter of a politician chooses to follow in their parent’s footsteps but nature rarely distributes talent that way. How true. I grew up in the era of Amitabh Bachchan and Sunil Gavaskar. Their sons are hardly a patch on their superstar fathers as many others from bollywood and cricket. In politics, legislative and governance talent is not highlighted or monitored strongly. Bollywood and cricket superstars have to be on their toes(latest hit or latest match) but politicians have a five year term and public memory being short, they can many times get away with being incompetent.

Since I am likely to be accused of Gujju bias where Mr Modi is concerned, people can draw their own conclusions after reading the latest issue of India today on the possibility of replicating the Gujarat model or on the internet. His governance credentials are much better but for somebody who is asking votes for good governance, inducting actors/actresses as legislators in place of people with strong grassroots experience does not augur well unless they really have the capability and sincerity(I read long ago how actor Vinod Khanna had done a lot of good work in Gurdaspur and had won twice from there). Inducting an erstwhile dream girl as a candidate reminds of the famous Sholay song “Jab tak hai jaan, jane jahaan, main nachoongi, main naachongi”.. It seems her sunset years are being used for a different kind of dacne. How different reel and real life can be- for an exceptional display of dance and body, the same lady is not willing to even come out of her Audi. How competence in politics has to be promoted vigorously is something everyone needs to and should study.

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Publushed article on elections

May 7, 2009

Though I am not a Journalist, I began with blogging and now my articles get regularly published in a magazine called Management compass. This article was published in April’2009

Another grand election looms large on the horizon. Newspapers and political magazines are full of how the whole political scene in India has become centrifugal with influential regional satraps calling the shots and no national leader with a pan Indian following emerging. The year when a national party got an absolute majority was two decades ago, ie in 1989. The regional allies are becoming stronger and demanding their pound of flesh as no party is expected to get absolute majority in the new power equations that are expected to emerge. So much so that some congressmen feel that it is the regional parties that pose a bigger challenge than the Bharatiya Janata Party and there are several people with prime ministerial aspirations even among regional leaders.

All kinds of alliances are being contemplated by the regional and two centrist parties. In 1998, the Telugu Desam Party, National Conference, Lok Jan Shakti Party and Biju Janta Dal forgot their secular roots and aligned with the BJP against the Congress at the centre. Though they may have broken off later on, this was the first indication of the fact that alliances were more on the basis of self interest rather than any ideology or principle. That apart, in a diverse country like India, voting often takes place on caste, regional, ethnic and even linguistic considerations. Though infrastructure, jobs, terrorism etc are the major issues, most parties are targeting the various vote banks. One hears of the Lodh vote, the Muslim vote, the Yadav vote, the Thakur vote , the Dalit vote, the Brahmin vote, the Vaish vote etc. Such tendencies are bound to multiply in the absence of a strong national leader who can sway the masses singularly with slogans and oratory and also act as a transformational figure. Apart from the vote banks and regional considerations, one significant factor playing a major role in these elections is the youth.

In a youth survey conducted by India Today magazine in February 2009, Narendra Modi was the number one choice of youth as the prime minister of the country and at 16 per cent of the vote got double the percentage of vote as the official nominee of the BJP, LK Advani. What and how the youth thinks would be a key factor in these elections. The report further stated that the youth have chosen a leader who delivers, a leader who has found redemption in the hard work of reform. They have chosen the doer and rejected the wafflers. If this is indeed so, it is surprising that prime minster is number four and Rahul Gandhi is number two. This is a clear indication of the fact that apart from performance, biology does matter. One got to readon how an 81-year-old Advani was rushing out playing hi-tech games, launching trendy websites, meeting IIM graduates and spoke of his experiences to the Microsoft headquarters in Seattle. The desperation to reach out to the youth is also visible in the fact The Hindustan Times report on February 22 about popular blogger Sidin Vadukut refusing to be a part of ‘bloggers for Advani’ programme. This is what he had to say in his refusal letter “Obama’s greatest success perhaps was in infusing his nation with optimism even during a period of great economic crisis. With your blog and website, you have the power to do that.” Where just the youth factor is concerned, future politicians will have to keep in mind this experience of the experienced Advani — “Javani nahin hai gavani” (can’t afford to be old). Considering the youth factor in demographics, this may actually be a good thing for an Indian Obama to emerge.

In another India Today study that was published in September 2008, it was stated that Amethi, which has elected members of the Gandhi family — Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi (twice), Sonia Gandhi and now Rahul Gandhi — (five times out of 10 polls) ranks 484 on the socio-economic index and 475 on the infrastructure ranking. Phulpur and Allahabad, represented by Jawaharlal Nehru, who was prime minister for 17 years, ranks 409 out of 543 on the socio-economic index. Barring Surat, which elected Morarji Desai, none of the prime ministerial constituencies figure anywhere on the top 100 list.
Though business management and politics are drastically different in India, some reference to the management world is not completely out of place. One of the best write-ups that I have come across about the credentials of family members in running their businesses is this extract from the father of modern management, Peter Drucker’s What makes an Effective Executive? which has been selected by Harvard University among Drucker’s best. There, Drucker writes on the well known company Du pont, “In the successful family company, a relative is promoted only if he or she is measurably superior to all the non-relatives on the same level… Beyond the entrance level, a family member got a promotion only if a panel composed primarily of non-family managers judged the person to be superior in ability and performance to all other employees at the same level. The same rule was observed for a century in the highly successful family business J Lyons and Company when it dominated the Britsh food-service and hotel industries.”

Considering the fact that in politics, the scale of problems is much greater than in business and the country is not anybody’s private property, the vetting and validating process of separating the wheat from the chaff should be even more stringent. I once worked for a boss who got several double promotions in one year and went on to establish several businesses of his own. He was much better than three other people from the same management institute. In this context, if I were to compare him to the chairman’s sons, no amount of business training or coaching would have made them as good as he was.

However irrelevant the parameters of voting may seem on parochial considerations and whatever the political drama that may ensue, from a management perspective, one has to look at the entire scenario on the basis of performance. Though the economic performance has been no doubt exemplary, since this government came on the promise of aam aadmi or common man in 2004, certain comments in this context made by the the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) made headline news in the Times of India on February 23. The CAG reported “Over Rs 51,000 crore was allocated for the government’s flagship schemes in 2007-08 which got transferred to the bank accounts of NGOs, autonomous bodies and district authorities. However, the government has told CAG that it was not aware of the actual expenditure by these organisations. The aggregate amount of the unspent balances in the accounts of the implementing agencies kept outside government accounts is not readily ascertainable. The government expenditure, as reflected in the accounts to that extent is, therefore, overstated.” The report also pointed out how the social and infrastructure development fund (SIDF) — created in 2006 for funding initiatives such as the employment of physically challenged, insurance cover for rural poor, etc — was diverted to unspecified programmes like celebration of 150th year of the First War of Independence and towards grants to various cultural organisations. The report concluded that the CAG’s observations in an election year, just before dates are to be announced for Lok Sabha polls, is a big blow to the UPA government’s pro-poor, pro-development posture. That apart, according to other reports, even the Rs 2 crore-per-MP-per-year local area development scheme has become a tool for nepotism and rampant corruption in some cases. So much for the aam aadmi. It seems that instead of the recent award winning movie Slumdog Millionaire the poor execution is more on the lines of Slumdodge Millionaire. It is dodging the real people towards whom the funds are targeted and to whoever they are going is probably becoming a millionaire.

From my experience as executive assistant to my father and managing director in another company, I can say that where implementation is concerned, there is indeed a slip between the cup and the lip. However the executive assistant to the top man’s presence in what is called “Management by walking around” could mitigate all this to a significant extent. Rahul Gandhi could have put his considerable influence in the party and the government to bring about a systematic change rather than help some poor individuals sporadically like highlighting the plight of Kalawati Bandurkar of Vidharba where he had gone visiting.

Even on terror, the common man suffered considerably. The Times of India reported that after the Mumbai blasts of 26/11, the Maharasttra government put forward a slew of security measures. Some of these measures had already been put forward after the Train blasts of July’06 but never been put in place. This clearly hints at faulty execution. The public outrage at 26/11 also revealed how the political class as a whole is derided in India. This is not restricted to the central government or terror alone. One article in India Today on the Maharastra government had this to say of their track record: “Despite criticism from various quarters, the government is falling back on populist schemes. Once announced, no one bothers to see when the schemes are actually implemented.” This reminds of a dialogue that Amitabh Bachchan says in the aptly named movie Sarkar “Pass ka faayda dekhne se pahle door ka nuksaan dekhna chaahiye” (one should look at the long term loss instead of the short term profit). However, in general and the election years especially, it is exactly the opposite — all the governments are only concerned with winning the elections and all kinds of populist schemes and loan waivers are announced without a thought to how the future governments and generations will cope.

When one has a ringside view of how difficult it can be to run even a medium sized company, one is able to realise the fact that one needs really good talent to run a diverse country like India. I was around 20 and a college student when Rajiv Gandhi became the prime minister. In his first year he was very impressive with the kind of speeches he gave and the business-like manner in which he went about signing the Punjab and Assam accords. Apart from the Gandhi name, his sweet smile, charming manners and handsome looks could have bowled anybody over. He came with noble intentions but was not able to fulfil all that he had promised initially and faltered on several other spheres. The experienced Nararsimha Rao made a better prime minister performance wise. He, along with his finance minister, Manmohan Singh, made possible the “garibi hatao” slogan that India Gandhi had coined in the election of 1971. This alone shows that merely depending upon family names or slogans can prove deceptive and the best orator need not be the best performer.

In his book India from Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond, Shashi Tharoor has this to say of the 1971 Lok Sahha: “The majority of backbenchers seemed to be out of their depth; they knew how to get elected but not how to legislate.” Tharoor is himself standing from Thiruvanthapuram to perhaps reverse this trend. The word “legislate” reminds me of eminent jurist, the late Nani Palkhiwala, whose speeches on the budget in matters of fiscal legislation used to be more popular than the budget itself for the manner in which he exposed the government blunders. When asked why an eminent and intelligent man was not in the higher echelons of the government, he replied “I don’t mind being nominated but I will not get elected”.

The manner in which Rajiv Gandhi was elected prime minister also deserves some mention. In the first February 2009 edition of the magazine The week, this is what I Rammohan Rao has to say of former President, R Venkatraman who died recently: “When RV became the vice-president, I was the director of news services division of All India Radio. The day Indira was assassinated; President Zail Singh and home minister PV Narsimha Rao were abroad. I sought RV’s permission to broadcast the news. He came to the studio and announced her death and the swearing in of Rajiv Gandhi as prime minsiter.” One wonders can even the student leaders be elected like this. Varun Gandhi’s inflammatory speeches on religious grounds reflects a desperate attempt to perpetuate dynasty politics.

This is why it is said that democracy is more vibrant in fully literate societies where politicians can get elected on merit instead of caste, religion, region, language etc. When that happens, it is more of a mobocracy than democracy. There are other newspaper reports on how some politicians are planning to get into the bandwagon of reality shows. Unfortunately even the majority of talk shows are more obsessed with discussing issues and raising awareness than monitoring what exactly the politicians are doing. Instead of the talk shows, there should be walk shows to know whether or not they are walking the talk.

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Gudiya or Media ?

July 14, 2008

When Rajesh Talwar was released from Jail after being wrongfully confined for 50 days after being accused of murdering his daughter, Arushi, it was surprising to see so many media people thrusting their mikes and trying to ask questions when the situation warranted otherwise. It reminded of an incident some years back when actor Govinda’s son was injured badly in an accident and some media person was trying to ask him how he was feeling when he was resting in his bed and not in a position to speak.

In an interview a month back, Mr Rajesh Talwar had stated in Hindi he might as well be hanged now that his bitiya( or guidya affectionately) is no more. Having been arrested almost immediately after her death and having had no time to mourn the loss of his daughter, it is hardly a matter of conjecture where his time should have gone after release- media or gudiya. How could the media justify its presence there? They could have waited for Mr Talwar to fully recover and no sensible person in the viewing public would have been interested in knowing Mr Talwar’s views on his jail stint at such a sensitive time.

The media clearly went overboard this time. In the NDTV program “We, the people”, prominent journalist Barkha Dutt probes the issue. Some main points from the program were:-

1. The media has to set its own Lakshman rekhas. Some time ago, in his Sunday column, Vir Sanghvi also spoke of self regulation. This is very true because if the govt has to intervene and regulate, it can severely curb the freedom of the press. One person in the audience said that in foreign countries, yellow cards were placed by the police at certain points beyond which the media could not go. If the media continues to behave the way it did with the Talwars, every citizen will also need to carry a yellow card.

2. A prominent lawyer suggested that the media should fully investigate systemic failures instead of moving to the next juicy story. This is very true. God alone knows what is the worth of talk shows if there is no follow up on any issue. The concerned people could follow up on discussion forums the net if possible.

3. One gentleman also pointed out that it is better to avoid sweeping generalizations and target only those media channels who wrongly sensationalized the whole thing. This is also correct but the problem is that after a few days, everyone will forget and it won’t be a surprise if there is a repetition in the future.

4. It was also pointed out that the term media trial is misleading. It should be media exposure and the media should confine its role to highlighting instead of also trying to be prosecutor and judge which is clearly exceeding its limits.

5. Someone suggested that there should be no political interference in the functioning of the police. The media and the judiciary have complete autonomy and if they can behave irresponsibly on occasions, one wonders what would happen if the police were to behave likewise. One has to have transparency in all matters so that misuse of powers is minimized irrespective of the profession.

6. Many youngsters pointed out that the media had no business in probing private SMS messages or whatever which is hardly debatable and which is why I mentioned the yellow card earlier.

7. One lady relative of Mr Talwar was shown crying on how he needed to be left alone with the family after release to mourn his daughter’s death. This was not discussed long enough or debated whether the media had any business to be there in the first place.

Rajesh Talwar’s elder brother Dinesh Talwar summed it up by saying that they all had to decide what kind of functioning of our democracy had to take place if such disasters had to be averted. Without any regular mechanism of follow up, not much change is likely to be effected. In India, we have more drama than karma.

The media went too far in its professional interest in this case. It is true that every person has his professional agenda which is most important to him or her and people going to any lengths to further their professional interest has become an all pervasive phenomenen. Agar society hoti badiya, na hota media ya Gudiya:-

Money makes the world go around- in this case beyond limits and out of bounds

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Heart over head;democracy is dead

May 14, 2008

In the Sunday Hindustan Times of May 11,2008, Vir Sanghvi has written in is article “The American President” that whatever be the merit of Barack Obama, Americans are likely to choose republican John McCain as he fits more into the mould of White Anglo sexan protestant which, historically in the recent past, a majority of American Presidents have tended to be. Sanghvi is so sure of this assertion that in his own words he is willing to put his money where his mouth is.

I had read somewhere that Democracy has meaning only in a literate society and in the same vein, American and British democracies were more vibrant. There is some merit in this as we have evidenced how in Bihar Lalloo Yadav ruled Bihar by person and proxy over a period of 15 years without commensurate merit. One can imagine poor, illiterate people casting their vote parochially in favor of their caste or religion without giving a damn to merit but if educated people also allow themselves to follow heart over head, one wonders what is in store in the long run?

Apart from Americans, the emotional element is very much evident in British society where monarchy persists though in this day and age, it is clearly our of vogue. Though South Indians are perceived to be down to earth, it is not too tough for a filmstar to become a prominent politician without any commensurate merit. Heart predominates also because the head does not decide the merit parameters of politicians.

In his Article “to woo UP, Rahul should tie the Dalit knot” of 5/5/2008 , journalist Jug Suraiya says “The proclaimed Yuvraj of the congress party, Rahul should emulate kings and emperors the world over who have used marriage as an instrument with which to forge links with other principalities and powers to help them extend their own domains. “
That’s a new one but may not be a bad idea while the going is good. Had India been a completely literate society, dynasties would never have lasted for four or five generations where American and Russian Presidents cannot stay in power for more than two terms.

It is really strange that people like President Putin of Russia who has given a superb performance in terms of turning around Russia has to think of abdicating power even if technically whereas other politicians can continue without merit on the strength of heart alone. God alone knows when genuine democracy will arise on sheer merit. Democracy seems more dead unless we use more of head.

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New media with/or New Idea

January 16, 2008

Delhi Bloggers and New Media Society had it first meet at a farm in Shivaji Marg on Saturday, 12/1/2008 . I had not heard the word New media before that.

Though new media may be the term for different types of internet enabled communications, the word also brings memories of the recent sledging controversy for which Harbhajan Singh has to face charges for calling Andrew Symonds a monkey. From all accounts, it seems that even if he said that, he must have been provoked by Symonds. Apart from cricket, Australia has been a force to reckon with in Tennis and even hosts one of the four grand slams this time of the year. If sledging were allowed in Tennis, it would create such a funny situation if players were to shout obscenities after every shot or whenever they feel like. In doubles it would be even funnier as the players at the net can really get intense in the exchange of words when they feel like it . It would be even more amusing in sports like wrestling, judo, golf etc. The only reason why the cricketers get away with sledging is that they are not audible; one report even suggested that they deliberately say nasty things when they are away from the stump mikes. If that is correct, another form of “New media” should be introduced; what is to stop the ICC from forcing the players to carry a small microphone(new media) on their person. If that is not embarrassing enough for the players, whoever abuses should be chucked out for ten games straightaway unless we want to permit sledging in the name of “gamesmanship”. This way it can be new society with new media at least on the cricket field. One must appreciate cricket writer Peter Reobock for using the term “ a bunch of wild dogs” for the Australian team and demanding Ricky Ponting’s resignation – that is the gutsy new media of a different kind.

New media also reminds of another issue. Recently, when Amitabh Bachchan’s mother died, both the Times of India and Hindustan Times flashed pictures of a distraught Abhishek and Aishwarya on their front page on the same day. It reminded me of what Mr Bachchan said in an interview some years back” Even if the color of my beard changes, it makes front page news. I don’t know what to do”. In the late seventies and early eighties when Mr Bachchan was the reigning superstar, he replied when asked about the desirability of performing certain roles, “If eight hundred million people want to watch this, what can I do? “ There maybe a point there but I don’t think that the readers of Times of India or Hindustan Times want to know about the personal occasions of filmstars on their front pages. I am sure that represents a tremendous opportunity cost and a tremendous opportunity lost. It would not be out of place to mention here that one journalist even made it to Mr Bachchan’s bedside when he was sick sometime back. Time for introspection, time for new media.

In general, it will be the day when new media follows up on an issue instead of following the policy of “loving them and leaving them” where news stories are concerned. There should be a pending issues section in newspapers where issues for which no solution has been found are continuously displayed. That apart, when any media, whether it is mainstream media or web media, is able to bring about the kind of transparency and accountability in politics that is there in both sports and films ,that would be new media indeed. New media is not just about new technologies but new ideas as well.

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Test Cricket or Hit Wicket ?

October 21, 2007

Yesterday(20/10/2007), 20/20 World Champions India won the solitary 20/20 match against one day World Champions Australia which prompted Skipper M.S.Dhoni to declare with an air of conviction, “This proves that the World Cup victory was no fluke”. Considering that India did practically everything right and dominated throughout the match and that too against Australia, one cannot but agree with the captain.

The world cup and this victory should pave the way for a 20/20 revolution in India. Even before the world cup victory, Indian Media baron Subhash Chandra of Zee Telefilms knew what he was doing when, while introducing his India cricket league, he was focusing only on the 20/20 format. He had probably foreseen the potential and the popularity of these kind of matches which were earlier played only in South Africa and England. Even in a typical one day match, the real fireworks begin only in the last one- one and a half hours in most matches. Why not focus only on that? Management is more about leveraging which implies getting more for less and it is high time that the cricketing authorities woke up to popular demand. In a market economy, that is the ultimate arbiter. It is a good thing that the BCCI has announced the Indian premier league and I hope that it proves a death knell for test matches.

Frankly, after watching the 20/20 world cup, the one day matches appeared to be more like Test matches which test the spectator’s patience more than anything else. The first one day international between India and Australia was washed out after the first innings got over. Had it been a 20/20 match, both the innings could have got over and the spectators could have got their money and time’s worth in the first three and a half hours itself. Even from the vagaries of nature point of view, it is better.

One strange complaint often repeated about cricket that it brings the whole country to a standstill and people don’t work which is also shown in the recent, wonderful movie on cricket, “Iqbal”. If a 20-20 match beings at 6 pm, it can still finish around 10 pm and resolve any such complaints. It would then be like watching a movie which would prove to be a very good alternative form of entertainment apart from taking care of work-life balance.
Much before India started playing 20/20 in the world cup, I had suggested in another forum in an article on “Lateral thinking in cricket” that since one-day cricket was far more popular( which is why the current Australia-India test series has no test), there could be a best of five or best of three one day matches at each playing centre instead of test matches. Now I feel that only 20/20 should reign. It may seem now but one can even have two matches in one day which would be so much better than boring test matches which tend to put people off to sleep. It is quality and not quantity that matters.

Though cricketers are of the view that Test match is the real cricket, the contest between the bat and the ball, the contest of both mind and body, I have always believed that one day cricket is another type of test. In test cricket, stamina and endurance are tested but here temperament, quick thinking and pure stroke play is tested, which, like alacrity in fielding, may not be every cricketer’s cup of tea. In one interview, Dhoni admitted that 20/20 drains both the mind and the body because of its intensity. It is like an exam where one has to finish the paper within a given timeframe and therefore cricketers have to be on their toes all the time.

Only genuinely good cricketers can do well in both forms of the game- Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar have scored 34 and 37 centuries respectively in Test cricket but in one day cricket, Gavaskar has only one century against Tendulkar’s 40 centuries. The difference in class is obvious. Even considering the fact that Gavaskar played only 108 one day matches, considering his stature, he should have scored at least 10 in one dayers. That apart, since he is an opening batsman, there is no excuse for not performing well in the one dayers which to my mind is equally real cricket on different parameters and considering the fact that the world cup is played in one dayers and now 20/20. What is real can change with the times and preferences of people..

Since I grew up on Gavaskar, I was a great fan of his but in the context of instant cricket, one can only say that while one can appreciate his phenomenal powers of concentration or the Wall Rarhul Dravid’s longevity on the wicket, would one want to spend one’s time and money to see all that? Tennis star Martina Navratilova had once said in the context of concentrating “ I just concentrate on concentrating” and that is what happens in a test match which is more like an art movie and one has to have good concentration to appreciate Gavaskar’s concentration. On the other hand, in a 20/20 match, concentration is spontaneous and is there straight from the word go when one is assured of Dhoni or Yuvraj’s blitzkrieg by one cricketer or another While comparing, former captain Kapil Dev correctly pointed out “Who would want to see a one day match when one can get more from three and a half hours than what one gets in eight?”.

I would extend the same philosophy to test matches which are no match for 20/20 where return on time and money is concerned. I read in an article that one of the persons instrumental in starting test cricket was a man of wealth who did not have to work for a living. No wonder they are so long. Contrast that with today’s world where even a genuine connoisseur of the game cannot sit through the whole test match unless he is retired. Consider the opportunity cost. If there is even a best of three 20/20 matches at each centre, it will not only ensure more cash collections for the BCCI, but ensure adequate return on time and money for the spectators. If it rains, the rest days in between can be utilized to fill up the gap rather than watching boring test matches being washed out which can be even more irritating. Considering their disadvantages, they are bound to die a natural death anyway.

I read somewhere that since around 60 countries play hockey and around 160 play chess(recently Vishwanathan Anand also became world champion), as only 20 countries play cricket, being world champions in cricket is not that great an achievement. While I do not entirely agree with that, I do feel that the 20/20 format because of the time element and excitement is more suited to getting other countries interested in cricket and who knows, in the era of globalization, cricket may prove to be a prime example. Who better to promote all that than India, current champions and a nation where cricket is passionately followed. Even from an international perspective, it is better.

One can always have one test match instead of three to satisfy the puritans just the way there is a critics award and a popular award. As for job satisfaction of the cricketers, 20/20 could be made tougher to make it commensurate with a test match. Some cricketers even say that if one has a good technique, one can do well in any form of the game. If true, they should not crib about 20/20. The most ridiculous argument that I have heard against 20/20 is that sixes will lose their novelty if they are hit so frequently. I don’t think that “familiarity breeds contempt” applies here’ Yuvraj hitting six sixes in an over is a case in point. Sixes have improved in degree(they are really huge now) and frequency and one can never have enough of them. The cricketers can be encouraged to play with technique and could be given special recognition so that both them and the “cricket buffs” among the spectators are satisfied. It could be a win-win situation for all.

Another criticism leveled against 20/20 is that it is too much against tradition; it is too unorthodox. In my view, that is what makes it appealing and successful and coincidentally happens to be the reason behind Reliance’s phenomenal corporate success- ‘Being unconventional is the biggest convention in Reliance.'(For those interested in details, my published article- Thinking out of the box). It would not be out of place to mention here that there used to be a Bollywood movie in the late seventies called “Khubsoorat” which had actress Rekha singing a song “Saare Niyam tod do(Break all the rules), Niyam pe Chalna Chod do( Forget convention)”. That is what 20/20 represents and that is what makes it new and appealing(lkhubsoorat)

There are some people who will argue just for the sake of argument but the fact remains that continuing to play more tests when the same time could be used for 20/20 is a huge opportunity cost and opportunity lost especially when we are proving to be so good at it. Test matches should played the way art films are made- more an exception than the rule. Now, it seems that the one day matches strike the right balance.

Former England Captain Nasir Hussain had said before we won the world cup “Cricket being so popular in India, with millions playing gully cricket, India is bound to do well in 20/20 ”. Every person plays to his strengths. So should every nation, especially one in which Cricket is deemed a religion and which has a spiritual legacy. Spirituality implies impermanence and non-attachment which now needs to be practiced with Test cricket. Not doing so would be like shooting oneself in the foot or in cricketing parlance, getting out hit wicket, a situation which does not augur well for Wold Champions. Arriving can prove tougher than striving and we should try and sustain our success instead of it being a one time “flash in the pan” affair. We ned to focus where we excel and towards test matches, we must adopt the attitude of “chuck(leave)de, India”

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Who watches the watchdog?

September 7, 2007

Today it came in the papers how Sachin Tendulkar had to repeatedly clarify that he was not contemplating retirement because of the controversy sparked by his one statement ,” At 34, it is difficult to recover after a one day match” . The report said that how some Marathi newspaper stated he was contemplating requirement and then how he, the manager Rajiv Shukla and Rahul Dravid described the report as completely false. What a waste of energy!. About a couple of months ago, it happened with Saurav Ganguly. I don’t remember what the issue was but in the end Mr Ganguly was telling the journos ,”I can understand that there is tremendous competition in the media but at least you should have checked with me. I was just a phone call away”

In recent times, the Jessica lall case is one case where one can really be proud of the media. One wonders why it has to resort to all this. I was in Rajkot about a month and a half back where I asked a very reliable source about the case of Pooja Chauhan who had roamed the streets of that town half clad to protest against dowry. While there is some element of truth in the story, we learnt that someone from the media encouraged her to do that. That’s being really proactive.

When I read Hindustan times editor MR Vir Sanghvi’s lucid articles and a lot that is written in newspapers and magazines, one really wonders whether the so called communication revolution can bring about a change for the common man or is it all a sham or intellectual fun.? There were so many articles about the common people favoring Abdul Kalam continuing as President and even the fact that had there been a direct contest, Mr Kalam would have won hands down. Yet, the elected representatives were able to thwart democracy or the voice of the people. How is then, the common man any better off than his ancestors with all the communication hullabaloo ? Even Internationally, Mr Bush went ahead with the Iraq war with practically the whole world against him.

Now, the Times of India has started a leadership lead India campaign. They are encouraging young people who “have it in them” to apply. One of the surveys says that a majority of people believe in honesty as a trait. That is obvious but if I shout from the rooftops how I honest I am, after the way Satyameva Jayate failed, is it going to make a difference?. How does one monitor honesty while the person is in office. Going by the old saying “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” and the fact that the future is not always an extension of the present, how can one ensure that somebody continues to be honest. How does one judge the honesty and competence of politicians ?.

Instead of running after Sachin and Saurav, the media should also report why the board President is not appointing a CEO to run cricket affairs as promised. It is strange that Sachin is accountable to Mr Pawar and the nation for a poor world cup performance but nobody bothers about how the board or its President performs. That is why we have only symbolic presidents (Pratibha means talent in Hindi) instead of performing Presidents( Mr Abdul Kalam)

A day after(8/9/2007) writing this post, it came in the papers that the sting operation on Delhi govt school teacher Uma Khurana maybe a fraud. This only vindicates what is written in the post above. Then during the last one day international between India and England, Sachin Tendulkar was again given out when he did not seem to be so. What is use of technology and the third umpire then? That is also kind of media and one is not proactive when one supposed to be.